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March 12th, 2000

The Paper Computer

The latest issue (8.04) of Wired features a rather interesting article on a man named Jim Willard. Willard’s claim to fame is the paper computer. It’s not a computer made of paper, but it is thin enough to be mistaken for paper, and it’s also disposable. His goal is to make this computer at least as common as paper, but infinitely more practical.

Willard’s big goal is to get the IRS to use the paper computer. Think about it: need help with a particular line on the 1040EZ? Just punch Help, and ensure the computer’s hooked up to your phone line. Then you can file it and throw the computer away. The idea itself, to me, is terribly intriguing and very possible.

The article points out a few flaws in Willard’s business model, however. The one that gets me is: is this an idea that simply is too advanced to be practical, yet? I love the concept. A disposable computer is something that will truly change how (and where) we use computers. But a huge battle will come from the personal electronics bandwagon: PDAs, new-fangled watches, etc. If my PDA can get me help on taxes (via the web, say), why do I need a paper computer?

So, do you think the idea is too far-fetched? -pm

Posted in Technology

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